Eurycoma longifolia Jack (known as tongkat ali), a popular traditional herbal medicine, is a flowering plant of the family Simaroubaceae, native to Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and also Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos and Thailand. E. longifolia, is one of the well-known folk medicines for aphrodisiac effects as well as intermittent fever (malaria) in Asia. Decoctions of E. longifolia leaves are used for washing itches, while its fruits are used in curing dysentery. Its bark is mostly used as a vermifuge, while the taproots are used to treat high blood pressure, and the root bark is used for the treatment of diarrhea and fever. Mostly, the roots extract of E. longifolia are used as folk medicine for sexual dysfunction, aging, malaria, cancer, diabetes, anxiety, aches, constipation, exercise recovery, fever, increased energy, increased strength, leukemia, osteoporosis, stress, syphilis and glandular swelling. The roots are also used as an aphrodisiac, antibiotic, appetite stimulant and health supplement. The plant is reported to be rich in various classes of bioactive compounds such as quassinoids, canthin-6-one alkaloids, β-carboline alkaloids, triterpene tirucallane type, squalene derivatives and biphenyl neolignan, eurycolactone, laurycolactone, and eurycomalactone, and bioactive steroids. Among these phytoconstituents, quassinoids account for a major portion of the E. longifolia root phytochemicals. An acute toxicity study has found that the oral Lethal Dose 50 (LD50) of the alcoholic extract of E. longifolia in mice is between 1500-2000 mg/kg, while the oral LD50 of the aqueous extract form is more than 3000 mg/kg. Liver and renal function tests showed no adverse changes at normal daily dose and chronic use of E. longifolia. Based on established literature on health benefits of E. longifolia, it is important to focus attention on its more active constituents and the constituents' identification, determination, further development and most importantly, the standardization. Besides the available data, more evidence is required regarding its therapeutic efficacy and safety, so it can be considered a rich herbal source of new drug candidates. It is very important to conserve this valuable medicinal plant for the health benefit of future generations.
Keywords: Eurycoma longifolia; pharmacological effects; quassinoids; safety; traditional herbal medicine.